After reviewing The Long Utopia last year and having quite enjoyed it, I was looking forward to reading The Long Cosmos, the fifth book in the Long Earth series. The book has the same characters trying to find yet more worlds to live in. Whether this is because they can’t be satisfied with the ones they are living on or because they feel they cannot trust some of the other species they have to share the world’s with, or whether it’s simply because they have an insatiable curiosity about what else might be out there, never did become entirely clear to me.

The main focus of this book was Joshua Valienté, a renowned explorer who sets off on one last adventure to see how far he can get. Meanwhile, back on the Long Earth, a signal has been received inviting all the inhabitants to JOIN US. At first no-one is quite sure who us refers to or why they want new recruits. The other inhabitants of Long Earth, the Next, soon realise that this message contains the instruction for building a new artificial intelligence. The Next cannot build the machine alone. They have to seek help from others and soon have assembled a machine that will change the whole structure of the world.

It sounds a simple enough plot but it seemed to get drowned in the details; somehow there was too much going on and yet not enough going on at the same time. That popular device of focussing on several characters within a story and switching focus from one to another to maintain interest just didn’t work for me in this book. I found myself getting more and more bored. Characters that had died in the The Last Utopia were resurrected, making me feel as though reading the last book had just been an exercise in wasting time. In all, the whole thing felt like an exercise in clutching at straws – which seemed to be pretty much what the characters were doing within the book, aimlessly stepping around trying to find new worlds to live in instead of enjoying the one they had.

In some ways I was sorry I couldn’t enjoy it more because there was an important social message in there – what would happen if we messed the world up and where would we go? Unfortunately, there was just so much scientific detail of how these multiple other worlds looked and how they worked that any story was lost, and consequently it took me ages to wade my way through the novel. It was like reading a non-fiction book but less interesting. Josh’s adventure could have been exciting but, like that of the other characters, it just buzzed about all over the place without anything proper happening. All in all The Long Cosmos was a bit of a disappointment for me, however I’m sure all that lovely sci-fi detail and description will really appeal to the die-hard fans of the genre.

★★

The Long Cosmos was published by Doubleday on 30 June 2016